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I realized how tired I was when I got to to the airport here and decided that my initial plan to take a bus tour of London was not such a good idea, and I wisely decided to head straight to Oxford. Took the Hogwarts Gatwick Express train to London's Victoria station, headed to the London Underground where I was disappointed to learn it was not a political movement (cues rimshot) and headed from Victoria Station to Paddington Station, and from there caught a train to Oxford. Definitely a good idea because I was having trouble keeping my eyes open by the time I got here. I pretty much caught all of my connections and it still took about 4 hours of travel... ugh.

The situation was not helped that in order to find where I was staying I needed to go to the Porter's Lodge at St. John's College in Oxford. This process was impeded by a complete and utter lack of any signage or guidance. I was reasonably sure I was close to it, but to find it I basically pushed open a massive fortress door (which was mysteriously unlocked, and which I saw people occasionally wander out of as I stood on the sidewalk trying to get my UK phone plan to works... note: that remains a work in progress) and wandered into an empty courtyard and meandered into another courtyard and randomly went into a doorway to another area where I saw an open door to something that looked like an office and went in... and there it was (there were a lot of other possibilities for where I could have gone, it was extremely lucky that I "zen navigated" my way to the right place... if nothing else, I would have asked anyone I found for help). I paid for my flat (in advance... thank goodness my Canadian bank card worked, it is supposed to work like Visa debit card and did) got the keys and fobs and set out to find the place, dragging my luggage behind me... it was walking distance, but further than I expected by a little bit. I got in (hauled everything up three flights of stairs). You walk in the door and there is a vestibule with a light switch and two doors leading off of it in opposite directions. In one direction is a living room with a chair, a small couch, a foldable dining table, wall shelving, a desk, a small cabinet, and what was a fireplace (now sealed up). Off the living room is another door that leads to a small kitchen with stove, small fridge, microwave, toaster, sink, cupboards above and below with plates, cookware, etc.. Going the other direction from the vestibule is the bedroom with a queen sized bed, bedside tables with lamps, and a little closet with an ironing board, iron, vacuum, etc.. From the bedroom is another door and a fairly large bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. It is far from luxurious, but it is certainly more spacious than a hotel room (or hostel room, which is where I was originally supposed to be staying... there is a private hostel for visitors to the facilities in Harwell, but it was full so one of the physicists from Oxford was able to get me this flat I am in now).

It was late afternoon, and I went out for dinner. A lot of the places nearby that looked promising were actual British pubs, and by that I mean I could get beer, but not really anything in the way of food from what I could see (none of the customers had anything but pints). I ended up going to what looked like a chain restaurant ( because they had what looked like decent food and had a menu out front. They were serving mid-afternoon tea with the trays of goodies and such, it was fun to see. Their regular menu was also available. I ordered what turned out to be a micro-brew IPA (my friend in China needs to come here and teach English... I can't understand a thing they're saying... seriously, and lol, they can't understand me one whit either!) that was very strong and bitter (I liked it, most people I know would not have) and their "Slow cooked salted pork belly" which was came with savoury apple pie, buttered green beans, mash, crackling, and red wine jus. It was better than I expected from a chain type restaurant (not a large chain, they have about two dozen locations, but still). They had a very European attitude toward bringing the bill (I had to flag my server down and make air-scribbling motions), but I was falling asleep at my table and had to get out. The good news again is that I was able to use my Canada Post prepaid Visa to pay for my meal (so that works too, which is good). I have some UK currency in my pocket, but my bank in Canada gave me 5 Pound notes that aren't accepted as currency here anymore, sigh, which is about 40% of the cash I had on me. I should be able to trade them in for valid UK currency, but will probably need some help with that because only banks will do it.

From there, I came back home (home is where I hang my hat) — via a convenience store where I bought vegetable samosas and an orange juice for a snack later — and pretty much fell asleep. I just got up am going to try to go back to sleep again soon (had a samosa, it was pretty good, and the juice) but will try to repair my shoe again with the glue I got (and brought), see if Virgin Mobile can fix the issue with my local phone plan in the UK which doesn't seem to be working, and maybe put my clothes away (and maybe even take a shower, which would be a public service at this point I'm sure).

If I wake up early enough, I might do the London hop on/hop off bus tour thing tomorrow but I'm not going to set an alarm. There is also the possibility of just doing a tour of Oxford (they have open topped double decker buses and lots to see here as well, it's quite the tourist town). I also need to figure out where to catch the private shuttle bus from Oxford to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Monday morning (I need to be there by 9:30AM, which seems quite civilized). Two shuttle tickets were waiting for me at the Porter's Lodge that had been sent by mail by my contact. The address was "Phelonius Friar, c/o The College Porter, St. John's College, St. Giles, Oxford, OX1 3JP"... seriously, this place has no actual address... you either know where it is, or you don't! Fyi, I found a little medieval door to the street (short, and studded with iron things) that is the door the area where the Porter lurks, err works that I can go to in the future if I need to. It allows access to one of the courtyards I had wandered through earlier, and has a doorbell that will summon the porter 24/7 from what I was told. It is unlocked, I was also told, until 11PM. There is absolutely no indication on or anywhere near that door or the buzzer as to what might lie behind it or what it's purpose is. I am thinking I will have to leave quite early for the shuttle bus as well... they indicate a location, but I suspect it is also a "you know where it is or you don't" sort of thing... and I don't ;).

I imagine that this is the sort of thing that goes on inside these mysterious institutions in Oxford:

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I have discovered today that Aurora Award trophies can also be used as earthquake detectors (the metal panels click together to make a very distinctive sound)!

While there was no actual earthquake, there is local shaking as they run steamrollers along the access road to where I live. As I could feel the subsonics rippling through the house (it resonated pretty well and actually kind of hurt my ears and definitely generated a feeling of discomfort... plus freaked out the cats), a weird clicking, almost glass-like sound would kick in a few seconds after the shaking started. When I went to investigate, the shaking would subside and the sound would stop. I finally had a long enough "run" of shaking just now to track down the source of the noise. A slight bend and the clicking sound was no more... for a while... as I write this, the shaking is so intense that it has started again. Oh, well.

Note: I have never received an Aurora Award, however I administered the awards in 1995 (at CAN•CON) and as such have a sample (unplated) award on the mantle in my living room [I was nominated for one, however I had to decline the nomination due to my involvement as a key administrator of the awards that year... too much ethics for my own good sometimes, heh].

P.S. The Aurora Award trophy is amazing... as you can see from the photo if you look through it sideways there is a maple-leaf cutout through all three panels that align. Also, from the side the tops of the panels look like the sweep of an auroral display (the photo does not show that very well). As a final wow, if you look at it from the top, the three panels form the letters "SF".
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Found an image of a 1951 Jeppesen Airway Manual ("MANUAL VOL.1 6011")... it is 7 rings!

I found a reference that Day-Timer (the company that started with the Lawyer's Day planner/log) started in 1947, but I have no images yet of what it looked like then.

Although I did find a reference to the prototype for the Lawyer's Day system from 1951, and it only had 3 holes!

This was pre-production, so I don't know if that means anything.

I've gone back a decade from where I had reached previously, but I'm still not seemingly at the point where the 7 ring binder was first introduced (and where, and why).
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Well, I have received some emails back from some of the organizations I have written to trying to track down the origins of the 7-ring binder system. Both answers were quite sincere and very helpful in their own ways. The first was from Jeppesen:

Unfortunately, after speaking with my colleagues and management, we were unable to come up with an answer as to where one would locate history of the 7 ring binder system. There’s also no one within the company that we were able to speak with that would know who/where to answer the questions.

It is pretty cool that they asked around! The second was from the Curator at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum:

I must say I have no idea of where one could find information on the history of binders.

They did, however, suggest a couple of potential avenues for further research:

So maybe I'm not at a dead end, but I was hoping for a "oh, it was developed for the biffletron program of the US worms in space initiative of 1937... everybody knows that" answer ;).

A friend pointed out to me that these posts are public and I may be known in the future as that nutbar guy and the 7-ring binder thing. History can be so unkind, lol.

I played this on my show yesterday instead of the Cohen original (the song had been requested by my guest, Dr. David W.O. Rogers, a medical physicist specializing in making sure the models used for radiation treatment of cancers correspond to the way it really affects humans when used). I got his go ahead for the substitution before I did it, although he commented that the visual image of a 7 foot clown singing a song so powerful and doing it so well was troublingly incongruous. Fyi, all my shows are available "on demand" for about a year after they air.

Edit: Heh, just visited the nacacollectors site... I was thinking National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, which became NASA), not the North American Collectibles Association. Oh, well, NACA (the NACA/NASA one) may very well be the source of the system... who knows. I will check out the collectibles societies, they may have a subject matter expert on binders ;).
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It is likely a HIStory given the domains and time frames; however, if anyone knows different, please let me know.

Specifically, I wanted to trace the history of the 7-ring binder. The original ring binders were 2 or 3 rings, with the 3 rings along the spine variation being mass produced in the US around the turn of the 20th century and becoming the de facto standard worldwide (give or take a bit, there's a lot of variation for sure).

What I want to know is where the 7 ring binder originated from. I can find no clues anywhere! Well, maybe a few clues... they may have been used by Boeing for flight operations manuals and checklists (specifically, I can find reference to 737s, which first went into service in 1968). They are popular amongst those who make planner products, but I have a hunch that's not where they originated from, but were rather adopted there. But I am wondering if Boeing maybe took the 7-ring system from some earlier aviation or aerospace or ... what? dunno ... source. Conversely, I found this reference to a 7-ring Day-Timer planner in the January, 1967 edition (Vol. 53, p. 13) of the American Bar Association Journal, so maybe my hunch is hooey... So I know it goes back to at least 1967, and the fact there is no "new and improved" slogan on the binder implies to me it goes back farther than that.

The advantage of 7 rings is plain paper pages don't tend to rip like they do in 3 ring binders, so it is a real advantage when doing things like mission critical checklists or planners that are going to be leafed through many times a day.

Any thoughts? Hints? Breadcrumbs?

Edit: found another reference to the Day-Timer's "Lawyer's Day" time planner in the American Bar Association Journal. This time in the July 1961 edition (Vol. 47, p. 656). So, I think my 737 hypothesis is well and truly dead now. Maybe it's stationary for lawyers where it became "a thing". It also precludes, I think, NASA since it was only founded in 1958. So, I've gone back 6 years more, and still no clue as to where it originated (although I think I found out where it gained traction as a product format).

Edit: Okay... maybe another breadcrumb... Day-Timer started as the "Lawyer's Day" product it seems by "Morris Perkin (1909–1976), a successful Pennsylvania attorney". Ah, a legal profession connection. It still doesn't necessarily imply that the 7-ring system was invented for this application though (correlation does not imply causation, right?). I found another reference in the ABA Journal, this time in the July 1960 edition (Vol. 46, p. 702). The advertisement here is that is is a system by a lawyer for lawyers, it does explicitly state that is a 7 ring binder system, but it still doesn't do anything other than state that's what it uses (again, implying it's a big meh, and isn't any sort of innovation at this point).

Edit: Found reference to "handsome 7 ring binder" in an advert for Jeppesen flight planning pages in the November 1962 edition of FLYING magazine. There may still be an aviation connection... or maybe it's military in origin? The fact that both the legal/planner and aviation instances are co-existing (and make no mention of the "gosh golly wow new" of the 7 ring system) seem to imply that both are based on a technology developed earlier.
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I have so much I want to do, so much pent-up desire (and sometimes need) to accomplish so many things after eight years as a "mature" (or at least elderly) undergraduate student. So many business ideas, so many technical ideas, so many geekly fun for myself ideas, so many social ideas, but I remain mired in making it from one day to the next. I really should have taken some time off to get my head straight, but it just didn't work out that way (in fact, I had negative amounts of time off because I started working for the university part time months before my semester was over, and was full time before my finals were written). With all that said, the reason was the bane of my hopes to accomplish the things I want: opportunity. The chances to work on things too cool for school (if you'll pardon the phrase as I am still, for all intents and purposes, at school) was too much to resist. It comes at a cost though for sure.

So where are things now, well, as stated, I am working on some truly amazing projects right now. These include both the Phase 1 (New Small Wheel muon tracker/trigger [not actually very small, fyi], in particular the small-wire Thin Gap Chamber, sTGC, sub-project that I did the testbeam at Fermilab for a few years back as a student research assistant and got authorship on a peer-reviewed journal article by working on) and Phase 2 (silicon inner tracker, ITk, in particular the end-cap strips sensors sub-project) upgrades for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (which will be upgraded to the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Detector with the replacement of the inner tracker system in 2025).

If all goes well, I just applied for a 5 year work visa for the UK (by way of UK Ancestry... my grandfather was born in Measham), and if I get it I will go for two weeks in mid-September (I've never been to the UK) to help test 48 wafers of a new batch of ASICs (integrated circuit chips, 450 per wafer) for the ITk project as part of a plan to start testing wafers here in Ottawa. There are hundreds of thousands of ASIC chips and thousands of sensors to be tested for the final detector, and we need multiple sites to do it at... Canada built the forward calorimeter for the current incarnation of ATLAS, and is working on the gas-filled detectors, the sTGCs, but this is the first time we've done silicon trackers like these, or at least on this scale. Anyway, if the visa thing works out, I might be going to RAL in the UK periodically over the next few years to work on this particular aspect of the project. I was supposed to make a side trip to CERN for the "ITk Week" where physicists from all over the world working on that project get together (I've never been there either, but I have been to TRIUMF, Fermilab, and DESY), but we're not sure when the wafers are going to be in, so it's kind of up in the air right now whether or not I make it to Switzerland (which I've never been to either).

I am also working on the Cryogenic Underground TEst facility (sorry, a PDF is all I could find that was public... slide 2 is worth checking it out for), CUTE (yes, CUTE...), which is an experiment that is part of the search for dark matter that will be installed at SNOLAB, 2km underground, early next year. It is going to use a 1kg chunk of ultra-pure germanium as its main detector element (huge for something like that, and crazy expensive). I have heard rumours that I may be asked to spend 6 weeks underground (well, heading underground each day... 5AM, ugh, but this will be for science!)... the first two weeks training (it's an active nickel mine in Sudbury, so there are real mining dangers on top of the danger of just being that far underground), and the next four weeks actually doing work. I had a chance to visit SNOLAB a couple of years back (I never got around to properly posting about it, which I am sad about), but I did post a couple of pictures I took while there. It really is like a villain lair from a Bond film or something... it's pretty surreal.

The other cluster of reasons why I am still not even close to being recovered from my undergraduate degrees is moving... and not even me. Firstly, my partner (we've been dating for a few years) could not find full time employment (much less anything with benefits) here in Ottawa (due to the way the federal government outsourced language training to a cartel), so had to move to Shanghai, China (teaching English as a Foreign Language) to get a living wage and extended medical insurance (we have universal health care, but it doesn't cover everything... like prescriptions and glasses and dental work unless they are outrageously expensive treatments or emergencies, for instance... I wouldn't trade it for the world having lived the alternative for a suffiently long time, but that's another story). She moved mid-June and that effort just about killed me dead (international moves are big things, I've done them before, but she didn't have a lot of resources, so sweat replaced money for a lot of things that had to get done). I did a radio inteview with her the week before she left that you can listen to here about her path through life that led her to where she is now. Her contract is for 15 months, but I am going to go visit her in Shanghai for two weeks in November! I've never been to China, so I am very, very excited (and Shanghai is a good introduction without going too deep, although I do hope to do one trip into another part of the country while I'm there). I was just starting to recover from that crazy process and my eldest daughter Beep finally decided to move out with two of her friends into a relatively nearby apartment. That happened last Saturday and it is still a work in progress (although 99% of the move is done now). It went relatively smoothly, but she had a lot more stuff than she thought she did, and it was a really hard job (moving hide-a-beds up from the basement here left some amount of injury, but nothing that's slowing me down too hard... I'm just freakin' exhausted). I'm heading over once I post this to her place for her housewarming party, and will be bringing a couple of serving spoons (she only has a ladle at the moment since her and her roommates didn't coordinate "stuff bringing" particularly well, heh), and a homemade vegetarian pizza to cook (I'm just waiting on the dough to finish and will bring the prepared ingredients in bags to assemble there). Her two roommates are effectively vegetarians (one will eat meat, but only if ethically sourced from personally known farmers), and I think that will be good for Beep (she's a whiz with vegetarian foods, we have always eaten a lot of vegetarian meals at home here). She is also continuing at college (Algonquin) in their Culinary Management programme, where she is learning to be a chef and to be able to run a kitchen or even restaurant. It's a good portable (almost universal) skill to have, and could open up a lot of doors for her all over the world if that's what she decides she wants to do. She is also talking about taking a degree in antropology at university eventually, and that would pair very nicely with a background in food... could be interesting, but we will see. Tuition is now free for low income families in Ontario (that'd be us, give or take a bit), so it is financially easier to go to school for both of them too (I completely missed out on it as it is only starting this fall). Happy had planned to move out at the start of the summer, but didn't quite get around to it, and for many reasons, has decided to stay with me for at least another year of school. She is going into her second official year in the psychology programme at Carleton (with minors in Women's and Gender Studies and Sexuality Studies... she has grown up around a broad spectrum of gender representations, so she is well placed to make contributions in those fields, imho). School starts for both of them in a week, so that's going to take a lot of effort on my part as well (if history is any indication). I do have to say I'm not looking forward to Carleton being packed to the rafters with people again soon, summers are so nice there...

My radio show, The Passionate Friar, is still going pretty well: an hour of feminism/social issues, physics/science, and music... news, reviews, interviews, ideas, engaging audio, and the Oxford comma! I've managed to up my game with interviews this summer and hope to keep the momentum going forward (I need to get more lined up for September now, but I think I will try more phone interviews, so it opens up a lot more possibilities). The shows are available "on demand" for somewhat over a year, so there is lots to listen to if you want to hear the people behind the physics (and science) and feminism (and social issues) you may hear/read about and benefit from. The list of shows to choose from is here on the CKCU web site. It's a long-form show (an hour), with some music for good measure (so it's not an hour of just talking). It gives a chance for people to warm up and share the stuff they are really passionate about and have devoted at least the current part of their lives pursuing. Some recent stuff includes: Ryan Couling and Matthew Johnston about their research into social media reactions to the Jian Ghomeshi trial; the writers for, and the editors and publishers of, the new young adult anthology Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme; Lori Stinson on her research which ranges from patterns of pornography consumption, to corporate manslaughter and homicide laws, to the changing federal family violence initiative; Alex Nuttal on disability tropes in comics and Barbara Gordon /​ Batgirl /​ Oracle; S.M. Carrière about creating characters or talking with/​about people that don't share your lived experiences (e.g. LGBTQA+ if you're not, women if you are a man or visa versa, etc.); neuroscientist turned social worker Dr. Elaine Waddington Lamont; an interview with Canadian new wave synthpop band Rational Youth; an interview and live music with Xave Ruth on the intersection of math, music, and comedy; Dr. Michael Windover, historian of architecture, design, and material culture on his research, exhibits, and book on early radio in Canada; outgoing Carleton University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Roseann O'Reilly Runte about her French poetry, writing, and research; theoretical physicist Dr. Thomas Grégoire; science education innovators Martin Williams, Ian Blokland, and Mats Selen (2015 US Professor of the Year); Cindy Stelmackowich on the history of Canadian women in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM); etc., etc., etc..

Needless to say, every Wednesday morning, my mind is totally blown and I can be excited about life and everything in it all over again. It's good to be The Passionate Friar!!!

Lastly, and on the topic of "mind blown", if you're in Ottawa September 11, please come out to the Carleton University Art Gallery for the vernissage of the art gallery exhibit I helped to curate and produce! It's an amazing collection of artifacts from early women scientists in Canada and tells both the story of the tremendous contributions they made, and the forces that were arrayed against them simply because of their gender. It has been an indescribable privilege to have participated in such a unique exhibit. From the CUAG list of upcoming exhibits:

11 September – 03 December 2017
Curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell; in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich.

So, what is a “herbarium?” and why is she the focus?

A herbarium is a collection of dried and preserved pressed plants or fungi that are stored, catalogued and arranged systematically for study.

In highlighting the “her” within
HERbarium, this exhibition focuses on the highly skilled and too widely unknown women who contributed to the collection, identification, illustration, production and distribution of early scientific knowledge within the field of botany in Canada.

Because of the accessible nature of botany close to home, and a national pursuit and desire to see, describe and classify flora and fauna species that were distinct from Europe within a then-young Canada, botany was the first natural science formally practiced by Canadian women.

With examples of path-breaking contributions by Catharine Parr Traill, Lady Dalhousie, Faith Fyles, Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles, this exhibition looks back at an important and underrepresented history. It also includes a copy of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” which outlines the federal policy in effect until 1955 that prohibited a woman upon marriage from continuing her career as a federal employee. The exhibition also looks forward at the continuing need to encourage women to pursue careers in science, where they face ongoing discrimination on the basis of intersections of gender, race, sexuality, dis/ability and class.

This exhibition has been developed for the Carleton Curatorial Laboratory in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich as part of her seminar “Representations of Women’s Scientific Contributions” offered through the Pauline Jewitt Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies at Carleton University.

If you're there, come say hi! I'll be the old, fat, bald, white guy standing awkwardly in the midst of many very cool and diverse young women ;). I do have to say that it was one of the most amazing courses I have ever taken... when I saw the title of the course, I knew there was no way I could not sign up; however, I had assumed it was going to be more research and essays and maybe classroom discussions. I was wonderfully, wonderfully wrong... it was many, many excursions to the hidden collections of Canada's national museums, practical hands-on work with many brilliant classmates, deeply engaging conversations about women in science (both historically and today), and working far outside my comfort zone on so many things. It was an absolutely magnificent way to cap my B.A. Honours degree in Women's and Gender Studies.

If that doesn't work, and you're here on October 17th... to the best of my knowledge, I should be there for this as well (see above re: potential travel to the UK or maybe even SNOLAB):

HERbarium: Exhibition tour with the curatorial team
Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 7:00 p.m

Please join us for a tour of the exhibition HERbarium, which was co-curated by Josie Arruejo, Chelsea Black, James Botte, Brigid Christison, Michelle Jackson and Sharon Odell, in collaboration with women’s and gender studies professor Cindy Stelmackowich.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome! CUAG is an accessible space, with barrier-free washrooms and elevator.

It does run until December 3, 2017 and I'd be happy to pop by if you get a chance to see it (just let me know a day or two in advance). I will be going in right after my show on Wednesday (August 30, 2017) to lend a hand or two in helping to set up the actual exhibit. It's delightful that we were actually able to get some amazingly rare artifacts to (safely) put on display, including Lady Dalhousie's 18th century personal herbarium, a first edition of Catherine Parr Traill's groundbreaking 1865 book "Canadian Wild Flowers" (a limited print run of 500 units, each with 10 colour plates, hand watercoloured by family members, it was the first "coffee table art book" published in Canada), amazing botanical artwork and science by Faith Fyles, and mycology (mushrooms and fungus) samples and other work by the pioneers in the categorization and study of fungi Dr. Irene Mounce and Dr. Mildred Nobles from the mid-20th century. The reproduction of the “Privy Council Letter, 1920 – Women, Marriage, Employment” (which was the "smoking gun" for so much of what we were trying to document regarding the limitations imposed on women) is just jaw dropping to read.

Just writing that, I feel like I need to go back to bed...

For a video today, hmmm... I think I need to repost something I seem to post every once in a while. The first video, "I Tak Bez Konca" by Polish musician Karolina Kozak is the United States I remember fondly and saw as the possibility of the place. Filmed in Savannah, Georgia, it often brings a tear to my eye (I actually know the people in the coffee shop from when I lived in North Carolina... it's a small world). The second video is the United States that we see on the surface and is the one the world is carefully watching: "I'm Afraid Of Americans" by David Bowie and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)... which will ultimately win, and at what cost? This is another place where a tremendous amount of my energy is going these days, just wondering if I'll have time to realize that nuclear war has broken out before me and my children and friends are all dead (we live in a national capital). I lived through the 70s and 80s, and I had hoped these days of fear were behind us. They are not, and I think it is even more dangerous (and possible) today than it was then given the multi-axis instabilities and extremism (and by that I mean established governments, not non-governmental groups) we are seeing all over the world. The Bowie/Reznor video sends chills down my spine when I watch it.

If that's too depressing... how about this song from Zepparella's original lineup (I have serious respect [and other feelings] for the drummer, she doesn't mess around when it comes to playing those things):

So much to live for still, let's get our shit together.


Aug. 4th, 2017 11:38 pm
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"Only conformists are ever adored."
— Catherine Breillat
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I am still waiting for the Senate at Carleton University to grant me my B.Sc. Honours in Theoretical Physics (it usually happens at the end of May from what I understand), but I have gone ahead and applied for admission into the B.A. Honours Women's and Gender Studies programme, which should take about 2 weeks and will apparently be in time for the summer semester even though it has begun (I visited the Admissions Office this morning and that's their story and they're sticking to it). As soon as I'm accepted, I will apply to graduate in the fall as I have already completed all the requirements (to my knowledge). I am a broken man on a Halifax pier (and it has been more than 6 years since I sailed away), but it is a consolation that I survived (last year, there was some serious uncertainty) and the amount of time I spent in total is reflected in the multiple results (not my intent at all when I started, fyi).

I am now starting on life number eight (humans get about eleven, unlike cats, phew), at least per one of my favourite comics of all time, from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (there is much more to it than I repeat here to illustrate the points, so it's worth checking out):
Here is something true: one day you will be dead.
Here is something false: you only live once.
It takes about 7 years to master something.
If you live to be 88, after age 11, you have 11 opportunities to be great at something.
These are your lifetimes.

Most people never let themselves die.
Some are afraid of death.
Some think they are already ghosts.
But you have many lives.

Spend a life writing poems.
Spend another building things.
Spend a life looking for facts,
and another looking for truth.

These are your lifetimes. Use them!
Which also reminds me of the final monologue in the movie Sucker Punch:

And it also has a tinge to it of another comic that I have had pinned to the corkboard in my kitchen for years that I read at least once a week so I never forget (click on it to go to the page it is from):

I just found out that a very good friend had her visa application to teach in China approved last night and she will be leaving for over a year to do something that is utterly out of her comfort zone. She is a hero to me because she is starting a whole new life, and it is a beautiful and terrifying and magical thing to behold. And yes, I do plan to take her up on her offer to come visit her while she is there... I have never been to China.


Apr. 28th, 2017 11:08 am
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I get very emotional about cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, have sophisticated eyes. The organogenesis and the final structure of the cephalopod eye fundamentally differ from those of vertebrates such as humans. Superficial similarities between cephalopod and vertebrate eyes are thought to be examples of convergent evolution. The cuttlefish pupil is a smoothly curving W-shape. Although cuttlefish cannot see color, they can perceive the polarization of light, which enhances their perception of contrast. They have two spots of concentrated sensor cells on their retina (known as foveae), one to look more forward, and one to look more backward. The eye changes focus by shifting the position of the entire lens with respect to the retina, instead of reshaping the lens as in mammals. Unlike the vertebrate eye, there is no blind spot, because the optic nerve is positioned behind the retina.

It has been speculated that cuttlefish's eyes are fully developed before birth, and that they start observing their surroundings while still in the egg.

Cephalopods are remarkable for how quickly and diversely they can communicate visually. To produce these signals, cephalopods can vary four types of communication element: chromatic (skin coloration), skin texture (e.g. rough or smooth), posture and locomotion. The common cuttlefish can display 34 chromatic, six textural, eight postural and six locomotor elements, whereas flamboyant cuttlefish use between 42 and 75 chromatic, seven textural, 14 postural, and seven locomotor elements.

While blogging is pretty spiff, and flapping my jaw and flailing my limbs seems to work okay, I am deeply humbled by our cuttlefish friends.

This post was brought to you by the song "Your Attitude Toward Cuttlefish" by the Winnipeg band Paper Moon, off the compilation album "For The Kids Two!" (which I was listening to while trying to learn a 3D solid modelling CAD program so I can do sketches for the projects I'm working on). I really do get emotional listening to that song, and it's one of my favourite pieces of music in the world for some reason (the reason actually eludes me... maybe it's the song... there is a rare innocence about it... maybe it's cuttlefish... if you ever lose me at an aquarium, just find the cuttlefish and I will probably be trying to interact with the denizens in the tank). I can't find a link to the song (Canadian indie music can be hard to find... sigh...), but I think it's on Spotify and other music services, none of which I have.

P.S. Cuttlefish = Aliens = Awesome! Right???
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I just had to open a new package of Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard chalk because I used up the previous package earlier today. I am at home. The professional grade chalkboard is in my bedroom. I am a colossal nerd.

40 hours until the exam that will decide whether I graduate or not. I am studying as fast as my writer's cramp will allow me to (I'm redoing all the problem sets as a study tool and correcting any mistakes I had made as I go). I'm on question 4 of 5 on problem set 3 (quantum perturbation theory) of 6. From problem set 1 to here has already been 26 pages of dense equations, and there's a similar amount to go. I hope to get done today (I figure there's a 50/50 chance), so I can go over my notes and the (shitty... Gasiorowicz 3rd. Ed.) textbook and flag important stuff tomorrow (it's an open book, open notes, open assignments exam... which means it's going to be hard, hard, hard).

Just in case you want to play the home game, here ya go: Quantum Mechanics on The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind. It's surprisingly easy to follow with a bit of high school math and an open mind (and maybe some alcohol so you're sitting in a Balmer Peak or some such... I've inflicted it on a mathphobic English major friend and they made it quite far).

And, while we're on the topic (nerds, not quantum mechanics)... this is lots of fun!

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I ordered a little 12VDC vacuum cleaner from AliExpress (stuff direct from China... if you haven't looked at the site yet beware, it can be addictive). I thought that maybe I could use it to suck chalk dust as it claimed to have a HEPA filter (it most assuredly does not... another lesson for AliExpress: buyer beware... some stuff has been wonderful, some total junk). I figured that worst case, when it arrived, I would use it for what it was for: cleaning the inside of my car. It does have a wonderfully long cord.

The reason for this post is the instructions sheet included with the vacuum. Oh, my. I have faithfully reproduced the text, including punctuation. The last note is perhaps the best, but it needs a proper build-up to truly appreciate. My comments are intersperced in italics...


1. Please confirm access the switch have all;

illustration shows power plug being inserted into 12VDC receptacle in car

2. Difficult to clean it can be used to clean up his mouth;

illustration shows a tiny hand holding a tiny crevice tool (a Canadian "classic", fyi) next to a huge version of the vacuum

3. Clean up garbage bags please ensure that connection, the switch have;

the vacuum has a cup with a cheap filter glued into it to catch cruft... the illustration shows the button [not switch] to press to open the front and remove the "nose" and cup insert... oh, and there are no "bags"

4. Every time after using the front cover;

not sure what this illustration is telling me... there appears to be some sort of white splotch on a surface next to the nose "part" with the other bits of vacuum sitting next to it


Please use a soft cloth lightly polishing machine, a thorough cleaning vacuum

a distant 1880s wash tub and modern dish soap bottle, a proximate vacuum being wiped by a hand holding, I guess, a cloth


1. Avoid a direct the sun in the sun or a hot place to avoid being melted;

no illustration

2. Every time after its use should be thoroughly cleaned before. If a clear for a product will decrease power;

illustration shows vacuum rattling or vibrating with smoke coming out of it with a superimposed X... I presume it is about to blow up?

next, there is an illustration with no text that suggests to me that one should not open the vacuum while it's running... I'm not quite sure, it's very confusing

3. Do not use vacuum cleaner to suck cigarette butts, which may block the cleaner (vacuum cleaner) and even cause fire due to it's high temperature

I'm pretty sure they stole this piece of text from somewhere else... there is an illustration that kind of makes sense with the text with a lovely X through it

4. Do not use the vacuum cleaner

Wait... what?
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I found out something "interesting" Friday evening: my cat Crookshanks flies into a rage when I play bagpipe music on my turntable. She usually runs from the other two cats, but she went right up to both Bob (Bobba Ho-Tep, the feral Egyptian Mau) and and Snowball (the black and white loco gato) and clubbed them each in the face in turn before I shouted at her to stop. Bob especially was gobsmacked (if you'll pardon the pun) because Crookshanks never lets herself get within half a metre of him. She doesn't react the same way when I play it on CD. I don't know whether she is emboldened by the bagpipes (a battlefield instrument) or whether she is driven insane by it, but she started caterwauling as well. We have actually never been able to figure out whether her bleating (she doesn't meow) is a happy noise or an angry noise, so it was impossible to tell whether she was expressing displeasure or joining in with the music. Eventually she settled into the chair beside me and demanded neck scritches and started purring up a storm, but it still didn't clarify her position on the matter. It was a terrifying experience for all concerned ;).
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I’m not sure if I mentioned it a while back, but I had been searching for a chalkboard for years... a real chalkboard... heavy, porcelain, professional grade. It was certainly a fool’s errand to find something affordable (they kind of started at $600 and the cost of shipping implied they were warehoused on Neptune or some fucking thing). They were plainly out of reach financially for me, not to mention the difficulty in justifying such a purchase to myself. At one point a year or so ago, I went to the physics department admin and asked if they knew of a source of chalkboards. Their only suggestion was to talk to the facilities folks at the university because chalkboards are still used throughout the institution and probably need to be replaced from time to time (plus the university seems to be building new buildings all the time, so they have to outfit the classrooms and labs therein). I never got around to talking to them, but a couple of months after that conversation, the admin pinged me and asked me if I still wanted a chalkboard. The cost? Haul it away! Suweeeet! It turns out the post-docs sardined into a room together wanted to ditch it in favour of a whiteboard. Their loss (whiteboards are terrible things that are smelly and hard to maintain, and proceed from nice to suck over the course of a year or two in my experience). I checked it out and it was, in fact, a real (and startlingly heavy) one and I said I would certainly take it. Life does work like that for me on a regular basis, and I try not to depend on it, but part of how it works is just to recognize opportunity when it pops up and to take a chance on the outcome.

For over a year now, I have had a lovely 4’ × 4’ professional green chalkboard on the wall in my bedroom (I think there may be some pathology associated with such behaviour, heh). It’s a real pleasure to work with and I find it allows me to be very creative with my ideas (and not just for math or stuff... scribbling on a chalkboard helps me think and focus). When I brought it home (I had to get a friend with a pickup truck to help, it’s crazy heavy and way too big for most cars), I picked up a starter set of Prang chalk from the local office supply store and a standard felt eraser. Well, I was pretty underwhelmed with the feel of the Prang stuff and the felt eraser worked but left a lot of residue. I did some research on chalks and found that the ultimate chalk company, Hagoromo, had just folded after 80 years in business. One mathematician stated the following:
There have been rumors about a dream chalk, a chalk so powerful that mathematics practically writes itself; a chalk so amazing that no incorrect proof can be written using this chalk. I can finally say, after months of pursuit, that such a chalk indeed exists.
So that wasn’t going to work for me... at least not in the long run. More research and enter the Nihon Rikagaku company of Japan. I read several articles that stated they have a great product; but when I researched the company, I found that they were interesting in other ways as well. In particular, 70% of their employees have “intellectual disabilities” (about half of which have severe impairments), and they have been employing people that were seriously marginalized in Japan for the past 57 years. There’s some interesting stuff on their web site on the topic, and I’d recommend it as reading if you’re into disability rights and such. So, I ordered a few packages of chalk to try them out and I can say that they are much nicer to use than the first box of chalk I brought home! They are also made with calcium carbonate (calcite limestome) rather than gypsum (calcium sulphate) which most modern chalks are made from, which gives it a nicer feel and makes the dust a little gentler if breathed in ;). The stuff was available from Amazon, but it did take a couple of months to travel across the ocean from Japan, so be patient if you want to go that route as well!

All well and good, of course, but I had this crappy eraser see... I mean it was okay, but... not great. Again, I did some research and ended up back at Nihon Rikagaku. They make a corduroy chalk brush that I know I’ve seen in manga that I have read (they are, apparently, a major brand in Japan... although I cannot attest to that having never been there). The shipping was just about the same and took two months to arrive, but it showed up a couple of days ago... and prompted this post today :). Compared to the felt eraser, the new one is a dream and leaves barely any residue on the chalkboard! What residue that remains is a lot finer and fainter than the best I’ve been able to do with the felt eraser.

So, chalkboard, chalk, and eraser... life is good right? If we are only looking at the experiential dimension of writing on walls, it is hard to imagine more joy than this (heh). But all is not well. Late in 2015 I became ill with some sort of crud. Turns out it was antibiotic resistant crud and it took until March of 2016 to get it under control (3 different antibiotics later). This did a lot of damage to my lungs and sinuses (mostly my sinuses, my lungs are mostly fine by now), and I am now extremely sensitive to many environmental factors that didn’t phase me in the slightest before then. One of my sensitivities? Yup. Chalk dust. So much so that I won’t be able to use the board in my room unless I set up some sort of dust filter/vacuum thing while I use it or wear a mask or some ridiculous thing. Argh. I may also move it to the basement if I ever get that sorted out, but it’s definitely a bit of a bummer. Another “environmental sensitivity” I developed? Coffee. I cannot drink coffee anymore as it causes near instant inflamation of my sinuses (it does not cause breathing problems with my lungs, but it can affect my hearing). Piss. Me. Off. But, I did survive... and I have an allergist appointment in March to see what we can figure out. I’m seeing a good ear, nose, and throat specialist as well (yay Canadian healthcare!) and think the whole fiasco is behind me (new sensitivities notwithstanding). I have only been using the chalkboard infrequently, but I am going to need to use it a lot over the next couple of months while I finish up my undergraduate degree(s) (freakin’ finally!). This obviously presents a challenge, but at least I have some idea of what I'm up against.

And I leave you with a followup dance performance by “The Agents”... I’ve watched it dozens of times since it came out and my mind is still blown every time!

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A friend came in from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories and we got together for New Year’s Eve. They very generously ordered some Chinese food (well, Canadian-Chinese, but...) for dinner and, after we waited the hour and a half before we could go pick it up, had a wonderful meal followed by fortune cookies all around. We all decided before opening them that it would be our fortunes for the new year. Mine?

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

Given the general theme of my existence, this does not bode well. O_o

p.s. If it makes any difference, the lucky numbers on the fortune were 1, 17, 23, 35, 41, and 47.
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Almost two years ago, I posted that I had ordered a model 7Ci tablet from Datawind in Canada (aka UbiSlate, aka Aakash) as part of an experiment to see if such insanely low cost products were any good at all, and where/how they might be used. I posted about ordering an UbiSlate 7Ci $37.99 Canadian tablet (I gave specs for it, and specs for both the the $79.99 Canadian UbiSlate 7C+ EDGE device and the $129.99 Canadian UbiSlate 3G7 full 3G phablet) here, back in the summer of 2014. I posted about receiving the 7Ci in this post, and promised I would write a proper review. The fact that I'm just getting around to doing so says a considerable amount about the state of my existence since then. What the older posts don't say, is that after I played around with the 7Ci, I purchased a second one and gave one to each Happy and Beep, and ordered myself a 3G7 to try out (the promise of 3G data access for such a low hardware cost was quite attractive). Based on my experiences with the 3G7, a friend also ordered one for themselves; and I ordered another 7Ci as a gift for another friend.

Below, the 7Ci (in its $15 keyboard/case) that it all started with...

If you go to the links for each of the products above, a few things have definitely changed. First and foremost, the cost (in Canadian dollars) has gone up for the 7Ci (now $47.99, still crazy inexpensive); and down for the 7C+ (now $62.99) and the 3G7 (now $99.99). A few other subtleties are in the specs that were not there two years ago: specifically, the 7Ci now says it comes with a mini-HDMI port (the ones I ordered definitely did not have that), and the 3G7 says it has "Wireless Headset Support" (presumably they added a Bluetooth compatible wireless interface... it costs tens of thousands of dollars and up to use the word "Bluetooth" since it is an industry trademark). They have also (since I last checked a couple of months ago) added two new products, the UbiSlate NS-7 ($149.99 Canadian) and the UbiSlate NS-10 ($175.99 Canadian). The NS-7 supports 3G wireless and the NS-10 just has wi-fi, but both are definitely "beefed up" machines. Specifically, they have 2GB of RAM (vs. 512MB on the older units) and 16GB of Flash (vs. 4GB on the older units). The 7" NS-7 has higher resolution (1280x800) than the 7" 3G7 (which has higher resolution than the 7Ci) and the 10" NS-10 has 2048x1536 resolution. Both have Bluetooth™ and GPS support (which is pretty funkadelic). The NS-7 has an octal core 1.5GHz CPU and says it supports HD video playback (which the 3G7 also says it does, but the 7Ci does not say it does); and the NS-10 has a quad core 1.6GHz CPU and does not say it supports HD video playback (which is odd to me, but since the 7Ci does a perfect job of displaying HD video, I have no reason to expect anything different from this device). Near as I can tell, the NS-7 is an amped-up 3G7 class machine and the NS-10 is an amped-up 7Ci class machine. [Not to be confused with NS-13, which is an entirely different thing in the Kingdom of Loathing game, heh]

So... the verdict? Well, as is evident from having sent a lot of business their way, I thought the devices were well worth their cost, and then some. I did mumble a little bit in the post I made after getting the first 7Ci about the case feeling a little rough around the edges (literally... again, not enough to injure or anything, just unrefined) and that was the case (pardon the pun) with all the '7Ci's I ordered. The 3G7 case was a different story and was smooth all the way around, and had a much more sophisticated feel to it. Both the 7Ci and the 3G7 have gorgeous displays and can play HD videos (720p or even 1080p [obviously scaled by the tablet to fit]) flawlessly both from files stored on local or expanded Flash memory (I got 32GB micro SD Flash Cards for all, they worked like a charm), or streaming via wi-fi from my fileserver (yes, I have a fileserver in my house) or the Internet. The touch screens have always worked really well, and the audio quality over a set of headphones is excellent (I've used both ear buds of several sorts, and a set of professional monitor headphones even). The audio out of the little monophonic speaker on the back is not so good... it's functional if needed, and is loud enough to hear kind of okay, and doesn't sound terrible, but it is directed away from the screen and if I use it, I find I need to cup my hand to direct the sound back at my head, or use some sort of flat surface to reflect the sound back at me. Not a good design decision there, but by no means a deal breaker (that the headphone audio sounds good is quite enough for me, I've had a lot of computer systems that had shitty audio no matter what I tried).

If I had to say what I thought was the UbiSlate's top feature, it would have to be the displays, and I have heard similar comments from the others I know who have used them. On the other hand, if I had to pick one think about them that was a failure, it would have to be the amount of RAM: 512MB is just not enough to run a lot of modern applications (e.g. Terra Battle just dies a horrible memory-starved death after a certain level), including (in too many cases) accessing some web sites with a web browser (e.g. media-rich sites with lots of JavaScript cause Chrome ands its ilk to just bail out trying). This RAM size restriction alone seriously limits what sort of things can be done with these devices, but if you can live within those bounds, the things it does well, it does very well. As a side note, I actually went out and found information on the type of CPU they use (not an easy task, fyi) and found out that the 512MB limit is a hard limit on the chip itself, not a design/marketing decision by Datawind (I had hoped to expand the memory myself to 1GB at least, but learned it would be utterly useless since the CPU wouldn't be able to access it... so no "hacker" points on that one).

I have a few more short (negative) notes on the hardware itself before moving on. Besides the issue with the speaker placement, one other industrial design issue came up: on the 3G7 I have, it is not possible to plug in both the mini-USB connector (for the external keyboard, for instance) and the external power supply adapter... the ports are just too close to each other for it to work. This is a huge deal for one of the uses I wanted to put the tablet to: taking notes at school. The battery only lasts less than 3 hours on my 3G7 with wireless enabled, which is not enough to make it useful in that context... I had initially planned to plug in while in class and typing on the keyboard, but that was not possible. The keyboard itself is usable to type on (I'm used to typing on a little Acer netbook computer, so the key size isn't unsurmountable), but I found that if I left it plugged in to the mini-USB port, it would drain the battery of the UbiSlate even when the tablet was off. Another issue I had regarding power was that if the battery was near dead and I did plug in the USB or external power supply to charge it, the unit would still run out of juice and shut down. Whut? Yup. Apparently the power/charging circuit was not designed properly to both fully power the unit and charge the battery. Definitely a problem, but it has not been an issue too many times (once I knew the problem existed)... if this was my only computing device, it would probably be a much bigger deal. Another pure fail was the power adapter that came with my 3G7 (some of the '7Ci's came with external adapters, some didn't... I'm not quite sure why): the plug on the adapter broke after a few months. I stripped the wires down and tried to repair it, and it worked for a while, but died soon after. I pulled the plug completely apart and saw that it failed because of a weak mechanical connection between the wires and the plug tip that would be extremely difficult to repair myself (I could do it, but what a pain in the ass, and it would probably just break again because there was inadequate strain relief). Just shoddy construction or weak design, at least in the one I had (my friend's adapter is still going strong... I do know that I'm pretty hard on equipment at the best of times though). I just ordered a replacement from China for $10 Canadian, which is one of the things that prompted this post (Datawind Canada doesn't seem to offer it for ordering, a marketing flaw from my perspective). Lastly, and this is probably something more specific to my use of it, I have torn the mini-USB connector off the tablet's motherboard more than once! Again, because of the power issue and the relatively short battery life, and the broken external adapter, I had taken to using it while it was plugged in via the mini-USB port to make it last longer. It is a small surface-mount connector and apparently relatively delicate. It should have been anchored to the tablet's motherboard with strong solder connections through the printed circuit, but I apparently tore it loose from its moorings. A friend repaired it for me (he's a surface-mount assembly master-craftsperson), but it tore loose again. I fixed it myself this last time (just a couple of weeks ago), but am not going to use it while it's plugged in anymore (well, at least until I get my new external adapter, heh).

So... definitely a few issues, but the question then becomes: what is it good for? I have been using my 3G7 on a nearly constant basis (every couple of days at least, sometimes more) since I got it. Beep uses it at about the same frequency as I do. I should mention that both Beep and I have laptops and access to desktop computers in the house, so the UbiSlate tablets definitely have a place in our larger computing infrastructure (and before it sounds like anything too classy, much of said "infrastructure" is beyond lagging-edge technology... some quite long in the tooth, and much of it salvaged and repurposed... but it does the job I keep it around for). Beep says she uses her tablet to watch YouTube videos mostly (she follows quite a number of Let's Players and other YouTubers), but does read online comics and stuff as well... so mostly Internet type stuff when the laptop is too bulky (again, the display and headphone audio is superb, and so is the wi-fi, so it's great for that). I use it to watch videos as well (music videos, and the videos from online courses like Coursera or edX, for instance), but most of the time I spend on it is to read PDFs for classes. One thing that works great is to set it up to my left on my desk and use it to read articles for class while typing notes on the desktop computer in my room (kind of a poor-man's dual-monitor sort of thing). I definitely do some web surfing (it mostly works most of the time), and sometimes watch YouTube videos (with the Android app, it's not so good with web browsing to them), I used it to play online games while I was sick for much of this year (e.g. Kingdom of Loathing... link above... it even runs X-Plane for Android without any lag or anything). I've also used it to read books and such. The friend I gave the 7Ci to used it for a long time to carry technical documentation around with him into areas that didn't have computer access or wi-fi, but he still uses it from time to time. He is going in for surgery soon, and plans to bring the tablet in with him to watch YouTube videos while he recovers, and maybe read some online books. On the flip side, Happy never really latched onto using a tablet... she either uses her laptop or a desktop computer, or more recently, her smartphone (a data plan is a very recent addition to her life, so that wasn't the reason). Furthermore, the friend who also bought a 3G7 loaded it up with applications and quickly brought it to its knees with a plethora of network-attached apps all running at once (their main previous experience had been with iPhones, which is definitely a different kettle of fish). I helped bring it back under control, but she continues to find it hard to use and, as such, has shied away from it. I am thinking it has something to do with Android and some of the DIY flavour of those class of devices (at least when they're not ultra-integrated from a top-tier systems provider, e.g. LG or Samsung), since she seems to have many of the same complaints with the behaviours of Android phones. She also seems to favour the use of her laptop, and TV type watching using a desktop system in her living room, but most of everything she does from a computing and networking (e.g. email, apps, etc.) is through her smartphone. In both cases, it's hard to point at specific shortcomings of the UbiSlate devices, and it seems to fall more into a personal style sort of thing.

All the UbiSlate devices have Google Play on them, so you can get any app they have. I get a lot of mileage out of Acrobat Reader, the YouTube app, ConnectBot (an SSH client), RealCalc (a powerful calculator program), and an amazing program called ES File Explorer (which I use all the time). An aside on ES File Explorer, it allows me to connect my tablet to my Linux fileserver using Samba and can also, of course, access my local files on the tablet's Flash storage. It has a built-in music player and will launch the appropriate application to handle any other files (e.g. PDF or MP4, for instance). It also allows for automated connection to cloud servers, but I don't use that particular feature. Anyway, amazing integrated, easy-to-use program! On the minus side of things, the 3G7 ran the first 20 or so levels of Terra Battle (a very fun and engaging game from Japan), but it ran out of needed RAM to load levels after that... and I have not been able to continue playing :(. I have been able to play Kingdom of Loathing (a game I've been playing for nearly six years) in a web browser on it with no issues. Another note: the built-in web browser is too ancient to be of any use anymore, and you need to install Firefox or Chrome or something (I ran Pale Moon on it until they announced they were not supporting some of the systems I run anymore, so I stopped using it everywhere). One of the big discoveries/surprises is that it came with Kingsoft Office (aka WPS) loaded onto it. I have to admit to being shocked at how amazing this office suite was on a mobile device. Firstly, it really is tailored for use on mobile devices, you can integrate document storage and/or backup with the cloud storage provider of your choice (e.g. Dropbox, but Google Drive and others are also supported), and it does provide an all-in-one office suite on the go (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, a PDF viewer/editor [!], a file manager, email integration, etc. ... wow). There is a desktop verson of it available as well and, although I haven't tried it myself, the mobile and desktop versions are supposed to integrate seamlessly through the cloud storage feature (allowing one to move between devices as the need or desire arises). Anyway, something worth checking out in general (I use LibreOffice for my desktop needs... it integrates with the Zotero citation manager, which is critical to me at this phase of my existence). A warning about the UbiSlate's software complement: it comes with their own patented web browswer that uses remote servers to actually render the page and then serve it up to the device. Near as I can tell, this is to allow them to insert their own advertising streams into content from other web sites now, but I understand that the original idea was to be able to use powerful servers to render pages for under-powered but insanely cheap tablets that were being (almost) given away in Asia to university students that needed them. It was a good idea, but it doesn't work with modern dynamic and interactive web content... avoid this program! The UbiSlates also came loaded with all manner of adware and bloatware (and cheezy educational software) that would probably be worth your while to delete the hell out of. I have seen some little adverts on the platform even after my rigorous cleaning, but only when I've paused a video or something, which is perfectly acceptable to me (I think I've even maybe clicked on one, it was interesting enough, heh). All the little adverts have been appropriate for all ages so far, which is also a plus (I've read some reviews that excoriated the UbiSlates for adware, but that has not been my experience). Anyway, there's a lot of very popular apps that are way, way, way worse than anything I've seen on my tablet ;).

And then to explore one last feature... amongst the main reasons why I got the 3G7 was to explore the use of 3G data from a tablet platform. It wasn't until late last year that I finally got around to sorting through that. I have a smartphone with data, etc. and went in to inquire about what it would take to get my tablet added to my plan. Well, they had a plan for $5 a month, but that only included 10MB of data... enough to do a bit of email or use an SSH client as needed, but an amount that would quickly run out. It turns out that I had another need that came up since I got the 3G7, and that was to have access to SMS messaging (text messaging) rather than any data or calling ability. When I went to the kiosk in the mall (I'm with Virgin Mobile Canada), they told me that there was no way to get my tablet added with free texting (I would have to pay something like $0.10 a message, yikes!). I called up their customer support line and talked to someone there... they had to do some research and ask around, but they were able to offer me an unlimited text messaging add-on to the 10MB tablet data plan for $10 a month. Suweeet! There was a little bit of awkwardness at the kiosk when I went back to get a SIM (they tried the wrong sized card and it got jammed, but I was able to pull apart the tablet and get it out so the correct one could be put in... no damage done, fyi), and after a bit of back and forth with headquarters, they got the data and text plan up and running for me. I'm going to be moving the SIM to a custom Arduino-based system I'm working on and will be using it for more experimentation, but I did want to report that my 3G7 works like a charm with 3G and a well-known cell phone service provider in Canada.

To close, overall I would call my purchases of the UbiSlates a great success, and despite the several issues I talked about, they are very capable devices for their price. In fact, the lack of RAM was the only issue that proved truly limiting, but it certainly did not render them useless by any stretch of the imagination. If you're looking to get a tablet to do the sorts of things I said it's good at doing, any of the 7Ci/7C+/3G7 devices would be adequate. If you're looking for an inexpensive device to watch videos on or read PDFs or digital books, then it's hard to compete with for the cost! On the other hand, if you're looking for a more capable system, but still at a bargain basement price, you might want to consider the NS-7 or NS-10 depending on whether you need 3G connectivity or not (or whether you want the bigger screen or not). I must say that I'm eyeing the NS-7 as a possible step up from the 3G7 as it addresses the only real concern (the amount of RAM) I had with the earlier devices, but isn't going to cost $600 like an iPad. If you're uncomfortable wrangling Android smartphones into a state that works for you or are leary about deleting and installing apps and configuring them to your needs, then perhaps an iDevice from Apple is more your speed (if you have the $$$$$$) or something in a highly integrated Android device from a major smartphone/tablet vendor (if you have the $$$). For me, a little $ and a bit of effort paid off bigtime, but your mileage may vary ;).

Hmmm... what to use as a reward for reading this far (or at least putting the effort in to scroll down, heh)? How about something that will blow your freakin' mind!? This is a dance performance, but it's like nothing I've seen before (okay, I've seen bits and pieces, but put together like this, uh uh). If you liked The Matrix, you'll particularly enjoy this one. Wow. Just wow!

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A few updates...

I have been extremely ill (chest infection moving into my sinuses and ears... antibiotic resistant, probably a little closer to dying that I would like, vast swaths of the past few months are a barely remembered hazy blur... I'm mostly deaf at the moment, but the doctors say it will eventually clear up and that there's no nerve damage or problems with the basic functioning of my ear apparatus, just gunk that's preventing me from hearing... hopefully will get an appointment with an ENT specialist in the next week), although I have apparently maintained basic functionality somehow (and more mysteriously, an A average in school), but have really fallen flat on my face in other areas (like my physics research and house-related stuff, although the latter is still not too bad, just behind). Other than that...

Our Kickstarter failed, so the plan is to just bring Midnight Stranger out as a "hand cobbled" thing, but it will give us the code we need to do more productions or start working on more generic tools.

You can listen to a radio interview with me and Jeff on CBC Radio One (I did pretty well considering I was nearly deaf and barely coherent... good thing we each had our own individual headphone volume controls!):

There's a nifty (if cursory) article on the CBC News website here:

I engineered my first ever live streaming event on YouTube (with Jeff Green playing Midnight Stranger). It was fun, I think I will do more (I bought a year-long software license, so it's entirely possible), but maybe more along the lines of solving physics problems ... I can already hear people running away with great vigour ;).

I also did two solo radio interviews on CKCU:

"Wednesday Special Blend" (Feb. 24, 2016): [jump to 71:37 for the segment]

"Thursday Morning Special Blend" (Mar. 3, 2016): [jump to 45:50 for the segment]

(you can, of course, listen to me until your ears drool out your brain... or is it visa versa? on my feminism/science/music show "The Passionate Friar", every Wednesday morning or "on demand" anytime:

Finally, I am going to be a properly published physicist larva, err physicist. On May 1, 2016 in Volume 817 of Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A (NIMA), pages 85–92:

Now, to go back to bed for a while... O_o

pheloniusfriar: (Default)
I am sorting through some old boxes of mementos, keepsakes, portfolio stuff, and odds and ends ... wow, talk about a trip down memory lane. I have kept bits and pieces from everything I've done since I was a least a teen going into high school. I am writing this because of one little piece of paper I found (because I could fill volumes of books just documenting everything else in those boxes) — or rather, a business card. This particular card is for one Dr. R.G. Barradas, Professor of Chemistry, Carleton University. What is special about this card is, as I remember it, I had gone to some sort of open house at Carleton when I was in early high school. I got to look at all manner of stuff and try out all manner of equipment and little experiments (including time on a timeshare "minicomputer" through a teletype terminal playing the original Adventure game). One of the places I visited was the chemistry laboratories where they had lasers and all kinds of other really, really cool stuff (especially as a teenager in the late 70s, but it'd be cool even now). In one particular lab, and I don't know how this happened, I felt invited to drop in... and did. Yes, I would skip high school and take my bike to Carleton University (from Bell's Corner's, quite the haul) and hang out in a chemistry lab. In particular, and thus the card, in the lab of Dr. R.G. Barradas. I remember green lasers and lots of equipment and vials of some uranium compound. He would let me help out with little jobs around the lab and I got some "hands on" experience there with him. I was there when he made a discovery that the particular compound he was testing fluoresced when subjected to a particular kind of laser light. He had predicted it, but it had never been observed before. It was thrilling to be there. To this day, I credit Dr. Barradas with a more mature love of science (a more practical appreciation, rather than any romantic notions I might have had from only reading books... a condition, I should emphasize, did not diminish the magic in the slightest, it only made it more tangible and keen), and I have often thought about him. Sadly, I had forgotten his name until I found this card of his that I had kept. I did an online search for him and, while it's not like he never existed, there is nothing but a historic footprint and no indication of what happened to him. Is he still alive (unlikely as I remembered him being fairly old even at the time, but then I was just a kid, so old is relative, heh)? I could neither find any trace of his passing. What I did see was he published from the 1960s through to 1995 and that's where the trail goes cold. If he retired then, even if he retired young, that was 20 years ago now, so if he's still alive he would be at least in in 70s (or more likely 80s). I don't necessarily want to track him down, but I think I will make an inquiry of the chemistry department at Carleton as to whether they know what happened to him... at least one current professor is listed as a joint author on one of Dr. Barradas' papers, so someone should know something. As I stated, the generosity he showed with his time for the young (inexperienced but enthusiastic) time-sink that I was was profoundly influential on the course my life has taken and many of my attitudes about how to approach things.

Edit: When I dug down to the bottom of the box I found stuff from when I was in elementary school. What a bizarre life I have led.
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I am folding my laundry, eating a marshmallow treat, and watching a video of the latest SpaceX launch. A successful booster landing finally... heady stuff... space is getting nearer every day!!! Blue Origin did a successful booster landing a couple of weeks back and that really set the tone (and pressure) for SpaceX to perform on this one (it's not often someone eats Musk's lunch, heh). The main difference is that Blue Origin is a suborbital vehicle, whereas SpaceX's platform is fully orbital... very different beasts. Both are very exciting for very different reasons. Once my laundry is away, I am going to start working on the final stages of the Kickstarter I'm working on with Jeff Green (if you private message me, I will send you a preview link). I finished my last school work for the term on Saturday (an essay on Quebec writer Élisabeth Vonarburg's amazing utopian novel "Chroniques du Pays des Mères"... and as a side note, I will always have a special fondness for her as she took the time to teach me to play Simon & Garfunkel songs on guitar one late night many years ago), did our family's Yule dinner on Sunday, ran around like a maniac most of today on errands for other people, and came home and collapsed into sleep shortly thereafter (woke up a little after midnight and started all of the above). It has been an extremely difficult and painful (and probably dangerous, I got really, really sick) semester, but I finished all my classes and think I did well in a couple of them (I went in to my math exam with a 91% but will be lucky to get a B in the course, I did not do very well on the exam... we shall see). One of the courses I took was to get a better mark in my physics degree, one (the 4th year laboratory session) was toward my physics degree (I just have 3 courses left now, but it's going to take me a year and a half because they are only offered sequentially, sigh, and double sigh), and the last was a women's and gender studies course (cross listed with English... and it turned out to be more of an English course than I was prepared for). The course was given by the president of the university (!!!) and because of her position, she was able to invite a number of truly amazing people that came in and talked to the small group that we were (including Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, historical novel author and Viceregal Consort of the Governor General of Canada... a raucous and utterly engaging speaker; and <mind officially blown> doctor, astronaut, photographer, scientist, and writer Roberta Bondar, one of my few and true living heroes!!! ... and yes, I got her to sign a copy of her out-of-print book of stunning photography for me, "Passionate Vision").

Anyway, here's a link to the SpaceX launch... and booster landing... zomg!

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Comfort does not breed creativity.

— Chrissie Hynde


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